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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Hannibal: “Su-zakana”

Illustration for article titled Hannibal: “Su-zakana”

“Su-zakana” is a return to the structure of Hannibal‘s first season: team unity, case-of-the-week, Hannibal and Will together again. The first eight episodes of the second season—even the ones with their own episodic cases that didn’t focus squarely on WIll’s incarcerated predicament, as in the first two—were so markedly different from the first season. Those two arcs were a bold and exciting avenues of exploration for Hannibal, which had, for the most part, introduced itself with cases of the week that largely tied into the themes of series. That the show is defaulting back to that position that it started in and it feels like the next step rather than a regression to a simpler structure is a testament to where this season has been and it is going.

Because, in fact, “Su-zakana” is not at all like a season one episode. Much like Hannibal has been telling us all along, not everything is as it seems. In “Yakimono,” Will revealed how he would lure Hannibal. Now he’s putting it into practice by using himself as live bait. In the kaiseki cooking tradition (for which all season two episodes are named), su-zakana is a small vinegar dish to cleanse the palate. That’s what this episode feels like in a lot of ways, pivoting from the earlier half of the season, yet assuring the audience that it isn’t re-treading on previous ground. “Su-zakana” was also a return to form in that this episode was so squarely focused on Will and Hannibal. One of my favorite aspects of the show since its inception has been the chemistry between Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy, and it is wonderful to see them interact so regularly once again, especially now that the dynamic of their relationship has changed. This new, sassy Will (“I don’t want to kill you, Dr. Lecter, now that I finally find you interesting.”) cannot get Hannibal to fully admit his sins, but their new honesty has shifted their relationship from less of a manipulator and more of a teacher.

The case of the week here plays out like a bizarro version of the Will-Hannibal relationship. Jeremy Davies, who has made quite the career playing these wounded weirdos, takes on the Will role as brain-damaged Peter Bernardorne, manipulated by Chris Diamantopoulos’ serial killer social worker Clark Ingram. They are a poor man’s reflection of what Will and Hannibal used to be to each other, although where Ingram is disdainful of his client, Hannibal is now reverent of his. “I used to have a horrible fear of hurting anything. He helped me get over that,” Bernadorne says. “I feel so abnormal.” Will, unlike poor Peter, has simply learned to harness the power that Hannival has given him. Bernardorne inadvertently leads the FBI to Ingram when he sews a bird into the chest cavity of Sarah Kraber, a horse trainer where Bernardorne works, and sewing her into a horse. For such a poetic death, I had a decidedly unpoetic reaction that involved several exclamation points to seeing this death-womb. “One dead creature giving birth to another. The bird, the victims new beating hear, her soul given wings,” Will says. The the obvious theme inherent in Bernardorne’s actions is rebirth, one that could be reflected in the partnership between Will and Hannibal. But as Will points out, it’s one dead creature giving birth to another. It’s a false rebirth. Hannibal has always been one step ahead of everyone else, it’s how he’s eluded capture despite the complexity of his kills. But the finale of the episode was the first time I’ve been sure that someone has caught up with him. Hannibal’s final lines, so perfectly delivered by Mikkelsen, are prescient, although he doesn’t know it: “I can feed the caterpillar, I can whisper through the chrysalis but it hatches, it follows its own nature and that’s beyond me.” Will has hatched.

In “Su-zakana,” we also get the first glimpse of Margot (and very little bit of Mason) Verger, played by Katharine Isabelle and Michael Pitt, respectively. I’ve been anticipating the Vergers arrival since I read about Pitt’s casting. Played by Gary Oldman in the Hannibal film, Verger has a major jones to kill Hannibal for past atrocities committed by the not-so-good doctor that we will surely see in the coming episodes. Mason understands the power of Hannibal’s manipulation possibly even more acutely than even Will does, and I look forward to seeing how his inclusion is changed by Will’s status as Hannibal’s mentee, of sorts. I’m also interested to see what they do with Margot, who seems quite different than her portrayal in the book, who is much less spacey rich girl, but more bodybuilder employed by her sadistic brother so she can obtain his sperm and have a child with her partner, although the divergent characterizations share a tragic history with Mason. It’s with Margot, and then again with Will, that Hannibal reveals his own rationalization: “Doing bad things to bad people makes you feel good.” And, Mason Verger is a very bad person.

Stay observations:

  • Recipe of the week: Tasmanian Ocean Trout with Sautéed Mushrooms and Hollandaise Sauce
  • One of the strangest moments where I’ve cracked up at this show is the transition from Jack and Will’s ice-fishing bro-time to Hannibal cooking the trout they’ve caught. Obvious metaphors aside, of course Hannibal won’t be eating red meat. The Chesapeake Ripper is dead and gone, remember?
  • Let’s be honest, Tumblr is going to go straight up bananas with the above image.